Seniors carry LSU past Ole Miss

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes, left, meets his teammates at the plate after his go-ahead two-run homer Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes, left, meets his teammates at the plate after his go-ahead two-run homer Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.

Senior Day for the LSU baseball team is officially Saturday, but four of the seniors took center stage the night before.

Mason Katz started the winning rally in the eighth inning, Raph Rhymes ended it with a two-run home run, Kevin Berry got the win and Chris Cotton saved it as the Tigers defeated Ole Miss 5-4 on Friday night in Alex Box Stadium.

“That’s what seniors do for you,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s all the experience, it’s the confidence that they have. We didn’t play great tonight by any stretch of the imagination, but we found a way to win.”

The Tigers fell behind 1-0 in the first inning, lost a 3-1 lead in the seventh and fell behind 4-3 in the eighth. But the comeback provided a fitting end to an evening that began with the Tigers dedicating Skip Bertman Field and celebrating the 20-year anniversary of their 1993 College World Series championship.

With one out in the eighth, Katz fell behind 0-2 against Rebels reliever Aaron Greenwood (3-4), worked back to a full count then fisted a single into shallow center.

“We just had to battle and find a way to get one guy on,” Katz said. “I just tried to put it in play and luckily it found a hole and I turned it over to Raph.”

Rhymes followed by hitting a 2-1 breaking pitch for his fourth homer of the season, tying the career-high he set last season.

“That one was for Skip,” Rhymes said.

Kevin Berry (4-0) entered the game immediately after the Rebels took a 4-3 lead with one out in the eighth. He got the first out, yielded a double and a walk, then got a pop-out to keep the deficit at one run.

“We try to never give up,” Berry said. “No matter what happens we’re going to go out and fight. I was just trying to keep it as a one-run game and get us back in the dugout and give chance to the big guys in the order and let them do what they do.”

Then Cotton did what he does, pitching a perfect ninth for his 12th save. That was the first 1-2-3 inning for an LSU pitcher in the series that began with a 7-1 Tigers victory Thursday.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors and someone’s got to step up,” Cotton said. “I just threw strikes and the defense made plays and I was able to end it with a strikeout.”

The Tigers (48-7, 23-6 Southeastern Conference) broke the school record for regular-season victories with finale coming at noon Saturday against the Rebels (35-20, 14-15).

“Certainly some losses hurt more than others,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “This one hurts. We had a chance to win here when we played hard and did everything right to have the lead late, but we couldn’t finish it.”

Ole Miss broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth with some help from LSU. Reliever Joey Bourgeois walked Sikes Orvis on four pitches leading off and sent him to second with a wild pitch.

Bourgeois struck out Holt Perdzock on a pitch in the dirt, and catcher Ty Ross had to throw to first for the putout. Pinch runner Cameron Dishon broke for third as Ross threw, and first baseman Tyler Moore threw wildly past third for an error that allowed Dishon to score.

The Rebels added two runs in the seventh to tie the score at 3. Will Jamison led off with a single against Nick Rumbelow, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Tanner Mathis walked and Austin Anderson singled home Jamison.

Stuart Turner’s grounder advanced the runners, and Andrew Mistone’s grounder sent home Mathis with the tying run.

Ole Miss starter Sam Smith, who played at Barbe High School, held LSU scoreless on one hit through the first three innings but couldn’t get out of the fourth.

Alex Bregman led off by beating out a grounder to short, Katz followed with a hit-and-run single to send Bregman to third and Rhymes’ sacrifice fly tied the score at one.

Christian Ibarra walked and Moore beat out a slow roller to second to load the bases. Ross’ bases-loaded walk forced in a tie-breaking run and finished Smith. Greenwood relieved and struck out Andrew Stevenson and Sean McMullen to leave the bases loaded.

Mark Laird off the fifth against Greenwood with a triple down the right-field line and scored when Bregman followed with a grounder to second.

Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead against Kurt McCune in the first. Anderson doubled with one out and one out later Mistone singled him home.